Sunday, February 7, 2010

Antique Inspiration

All out of ideas for a new project? Suffering from woodworker's block? Wishing your spouse would give you a honey-do list?

Snap out of it! You're a woodworker. So head to a place that features feats of woodworking.

Some favorite places that help spark my electrons are museums and antique stores.

And if you live in my area, you don't have run-of-the-mill antique stores, you have the Antique Capital of South Central PA: New Oxford, Pennsylvania.

There you will find lots of pieces to inspire and invigorate. And by the end of the day, you'll be itching to get into your shop.

I asked permission to take photos at three antique stores, and all said yes. So if you plan to go antiquing or to museums, be sure to take your camera. Many places will allow you to take photos.

The PA German painted dower chest top right was dated 1807. This one was unusual for the amount of remaining paint on top, the vibrancy of the paint, and the three lower drawers.

Another piece that caught my eye—a PA German hanging corner cupboard—was also 18th c. and had its original paint and hardware.

Other items were a double-lidded pencil box, reminiscent of Roy's grease box, a chip carved serving tray, a chest that reminded me of 18th c. New England furniture, a large cupboard on desk, and a workbench.

The bench had been used well but was well preserved, and by the shape of the feet, may have been built by PA Germans. The sliding deadman no longer slid, which may have been the result of the massive 3" top having sagged a bit. The pinch dogs were pretty neat—just a sharp point driven into two tall bench dogs that can hold a spindle or other long piece of wood. Still a useful addition to today's benches.

So, don't despair if your woodworking idea-well has run dry. Visit an antique store or museum. And if you have none nearby, visit your local library. But that's for another post.

Thank you to the three antique stores that granted me permission to photograph their pieces:
1. Collector's Choice Antiques Gallery, email:; phone: 717.624.3440
2. New Oxford Antique Center, email:; phone: 866.333.NOAC
3. Golden Lane Antique Gallery, email:; phone: 717.624.3800


archiphile said...

So please tell me you came home with a "new" workbench. Man I would love that bench. Nice stuff and I like the pencil box neat idea. Might make one for my fountain pens.

Kari Hultman said...

I didn't bring it home with me, but it was tempting. At only $1,200, you couldn't really build a bench for much less than that!

Darnell said...

I can't agree more. Antiques are full of information from design to execution. I was just in an antique store two weeks ago, I haven't been able to get this curio out of my head. Quartersawn oak veneered columns topped with roaring lions heads, I had no idea oak could hold detail that crisp. I'm going back with my camera.
That corner cupboard must've been pretty flashy when it was new, that's quite the paint job.
Yes, that desk has odd proportions, the hutch is oppressive. I think it was an after thought, none of the details match. Different lines, moldings, knobs, ect.
I wonder how craft would change without cable. Take my TV, but leave my computer, please.
The bench's feet remind me of pigs hooves.
There's a lot of people who like antiques, but I don't think anyone understands them like a woodworker.

Klausbird said...

Very Cool, thanks Kari. I have not done much browsing through antique stores with the intent to find woodworking ideas. I was usually drug in by someone else unwillingly. But then found myself fascinated with the furniture.
I like the corner cupboard. Had you not included the second photo, I would have guessed the molding was made up of multiple pieces.
I just finished Chris Schwarz's book, and can't help but see the similarities between his bench and the one in your photos. I'm sure you were crawling all over it (as I would have been).

Gye Greene said...

Great workbench!

Yeah -- the few times I've seen WW workbenches at antique centres, they've wanted more $$$ than I felt they were worth (to become users).

They're priced to be decorations for the den -- not to be "users".


Follansbee said...

the hanging cupboard is a beauty. Last spring I was at Winterthur, and they have great Penn/Dutch stuff, including a hanging cupboard of this kind. If I get to have a 2nd career after English joinery, it would be Penn/Dutch stuff. thanks for the views.

Stephen Shepherd said...


You should have taken along your gnomon for scale.

I have photographs of a similar pencil box but without the lock, I like that. What kind of wood is it do you suppose?


Jeff Branch said...

I've never seen a woodworking bench in an antique shop - too cool!

badger said...

Fantastic idea, but I'm super jealous of your resources. Out in Washington (the left one) we have a lot less "old" stuff to be found, so we're a little deficient in that area.

Books help though.

Kari Hultman said...

Darnell--I'm with you. I never watch TV, but spend a ridiculous amount of time on the computer. If you want to carve oak, you'll want to talk with Peter Follansbee first. It will save you all kinds of frustration.

Klausbird, that's exactly why I included the shot from underneath the cupboard. I thought it was built up, too, and was surprised to see how it was made. I was crawling under the bench, for sure. Enough to make one vendor walk over and question what I was doing. haha

Gye Green, I hope some woodworker takes that bench home and uses it. It would be a deal at twice the price. The antique bench in my shop was purchased from a family that had been using it as a kitchen island. *sigh*

Peter, PA German furniture and the 17th c. New England furniture you make both seem to have the same type of charm.

Stephen, I keep forgetting to take my gnomon along. It would have come in handy with the pencil box. It was really fine grain, so I'm going to guess it was made from poplar. Let me know if you want me to send you any close ups.

Jeff, that's funny. Benches seem to follow me everywhere. I find them all the time. Maybe it's the area I live in?

Badger, I was in Colorado a couple years ago and went antiquing. Slim pickins in the tools and benches departments. Virtually non-existent.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kari

Which shop did you find that bench at? I have been looking to build a new one, and you're right. You can't build one like that for $1200.

With my charm I may get a little discount......right, They would raise it to $1500!!

Dave B

Kari Hultman said...

Dave, the bench is at the last antique store—Golden Lane Antique Gallery. Let me know if you need help bringing it home. :o)

Gye Greene said...


Heh! I hear ya: I'm originally from Seattle, now from Brisbane (AU, not CA). Hearing about all those East Coasters makes me jealous, too. :)


Cookin' with Wood said...


Thanks for the pics of the hanging corner cabinet, especially the view from below. The bead on the angled edge of the faceframe will work on a corner cabinet under construction. Very envious of the antique stores back east...

Alan said...

We used to have pencil boxes like that in school but they were cheap chinese made plastic ones. They were great for pretending they were battle ships though :)


TJH said...

Hi, Kari-

I was thinking about your comment regarding the span of the desk. Is the upright cabinet portion joined to the desk portion? If so, then it would significantly contribute to the desk structure (but, then, I'm sure you already know that!).

Kari Hultman said...

GG, perhaps a trip to the states is in order. WIA is in October this year. Just sayin'. ; )

CWW, happy to help!

Alan, were the pencils torpedos? :D

TJH, good question. I didn't peek behind or beneath so I can't say. It did look really well built; I just thought the piece looked disproportionately wide.